One of our local adversaries, Nick Gier, had a letter in the paper last night entitled “‘Intolerista,’ and proud of it.” He was referencing a recent article in the Spokane paper, which was, despite Nick’s praise, a fairly decent article. There were some mistakes in it, and of course, Nick seized on those mistakes as precious jewels to be gathered, assembled, and displayed for others. A true modern college professor, he dims the diamonds and polishes the pebbles.
“Doug Wilson, pastor of Moscow’s Christ Church and NSA founder, confessed that he was a ‘Paleo-Confederate,’ just after NSA President Roy Atwood said that any connection between his college and the neo-Confederates was laughably stupid.’”
Well, ya know, this is not a recent thing. I used that phrase — paleo-Confederate – in my talk on R.L. Dabney at the 2003 history conference. Defined it and everything too. Definitions? Bah. “The distinction Wilson tries to draw between neo- and paleo-confederate is one without a difference.” Gier says, ex cathedra, that this is a distinction without a difference. But before I explain the difference again, let me point out the real problem with what Gier is doing here. Even if my politics were exactly what Gier describes, it does not follow from this that NSA would be thereby contaminated by my intellectual cooties. Does the UI share all Gier’s opinions? Let us hope not.
That said, in my talk on Dabney, I made it very clear what I was and was not saying. I then anticipated just the trouble we now find ourselves in again, and I offered a remedy.
But this brings us to the bad news again, at least for our protesters. In order to find out what paleo-Confederate means, you might have to read a book or something. I suggest beginning with Christianity and Culture by T.S. Eliot. But before checking it out, you do have to be assured of one thing—checking it out is most necessary. All the natural conclusions to which moderns are tempted to leap on such matters are almost entirely wrong. We are talking about things concerning which modern education has left you woefully unprepared—and it shows (Black & Tan, p. 80).
And it still shows. I talked about this problem elsewhere in the book as well.
In this last category was the accusation that I am a neo-Confederate. This is close in one way, but at the same time not at all accurate. The tag neo-Confederate conjures up images of a handful of disillusioned yahoos setting up a tiny republic in a trailer park east of Houston somewhere. But it must be admitted that a more accurate name would require explanation as well. This is because I am not a neo-Confederate; I am a paleo-Confederate. And with this acknowledgement comes my need for a phrase like “regenerate but unreconstructed” (p. 15).
But I use the phrase paleo-Confederate anyway, for the honest reader will be honest enough to wonder what such a phrase could mean, and perhaps be curious enough to read a small essay on it. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that with the phrase paleo-Confederate, I do not wish to limit my historical allegiances to anything so provincially American, and so I would also want to identify myself as a paleo-medieval, a paleo-conservative, a paleo-Constantinian, a paleo-Puritan, a paleo-Chestertonian, and a paleo-spear Dane (p. 15)
Nick also said he appreciated my confession that Robert E. Lee’s portrait, etc. have been displayed “in church and school functions.” But alas, I said nothing of the kind. The reporter and I did not talk about that. Nick also said, “A visiting pastor wrote a letter to this paper testifying to the presence of the Confederate flag in Wilson’s office.” In a weird intersection of controversies, that would have been Joe Morecraft, who decided to join in our melee with the radical leftists here a few years ago . . . on the other side, unfortunately. But despite his poor sense of direction, Joe was right about one thing. I have had such things in my office. Don’t have the keyboard dustcover any more, but I still have pictures of John Knox, Stonewall Jackson, and a page from an original Tyndale Bible. I have a picture of Jeb Stuart stored somewhere, and a couple frames of medieval music. Got a couple bullets somewhere too — one Yankee and one Reb. But if you really need an office with a rebel flag in it, try the secretary of agriculture in Mississippi. They have flags like this all over the place there. Might even have them flying (in principle) over the philosophy department at Ole Miss.
Gier goes on. “I always chuckle when Wilson and Atwood described me as from the ‘extreme left’ (actually I’m just left of center) . . .” Well, this is a remarkable coincidence. I myself am just right of center. In fact, I am so exactly in the middle of the road that extremists are always to my right and left. In fact, since Nick and I are both so close to the center, I marvel at all the ongoing dissension.
Gier continues, building to a crescendo:
I also proudly call myself “Intolerista,” a name that Wilson and Co. give to those who dare cricitize them. Intolerance is a virtue when one is intolerant of dishonesty, bigotry, discrimination, ugly behavior, and bad manners.
Actually, the name intolerista is not for those who criticize us. The Bible criticizes us all the time. So do our friends. The name intolerista goes on those who express their dissent and criticism in a certain way. The problem with the intolerista is not the disapproval. The problem is the serene and utterly rootless aura of self-righteousness. As Lenny Bruce so wonderfully put it, in his definition of liberals, we are talking here about people “who can understand everything but people who don’t understand them.”